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Colton Villa wins appeal of safety citation

February 19, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

The Colton Villa Nursing Center in Hagerstown has successfully appealed a state Health Department recommendation that the nursing home be fined and prohibited from receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments for new patients, James Mitchell, the center's executive director, said Thursday.

In November, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene cited the home for "failing to provide supervision necessary to prevent accidents," according to an inspection report.

The report cited two specific incidents. In one, an 82-year-old woman broke her hip after a fall. In the other, an 85-year-old woman on a restricted diet choked on a potato, restricting the flow of blood to the brain, resulting in brain damage. The woman lost the ability to communicate and must be fed through a tube.

Mitchell appealed the ruling at a Jan. 29 meeting with state health department officials in Baltimore, during which he explained what actions the nursing home on Dual Highway had taken to prevent the accidents.

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Although the woman who choked on the potato was on a restricted diet, she was allowed to have small foods that she would have to chew, including cut-up sandwiches and small vegetables, Mitchell said Thursday.

He said there was no evidence the woman would have difficulty chewing or swallowing the potato and so there was no reason to keep it from her.

"She didn't receive the wrong menu," he said.

Mitchell said nursing home staff took several steps to prevent the woman who broke her hip from falling from her bed or wheelchair.

He said she was given a wedge cushion for her wheelchair, alarms were put on her bed and wheelchair, she was moved closer to the nurses' station and she was designated to receive special one-on-one attention.

Despite these precautions, the woman was alone in her room when she fell, Mitchell said.

"It's unrealistic to say there will never be an accident at Colton Villa," he said.

Mitchell said the state's November report mentioned some of those preventive measures but they "weren't highlighted in the survey."

A Feb. 3 letter to Mitchell from Carol Benner, director of licensing and certification at the state Health Department, stated, "After further evaluation of the available information, we believe that our negative findings do not support this citation."

"They have convinced us that the deficiencies do not exist and they are not at risk to lose their Medicare or Medicaid funding or any other sanction," Benner said in a voice mail message.

Benner could not be reached for additional comment.

Mitchell said he didn't expect the report to have a negative long-term effect on the nursing home.

"People that know Colton Villa know we give good care here," he said.

Mitchell said an annual survey sent to residents' relatives routinely shows that about 90 percent of them are happy with the care at the nursing home.

Since the state's report was made public, however, the number of residents at the 160-bed facility has gone down from 133 to 117.

Mitchell said six of those people cited the state's report as their reason for leaving.

"People were afraid we would lose our license and go out of business," he said.

If the state's report had been upheld it would have put the nursing home out of business, Mitchell said.

Colton Villa has 150 employees. It is owned by Beverly HealthCare, a company with about 550 nursing homes in the United States.

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